Settler Filipino Kinship Work: Being Better Relations within Turtle Island

Ashley Caranto Morford


This dissertation asks how settler Filipinos can be better relations to Indigenous lands and life within Canada. Through writing autoethnographic reflections as a settler Filipina and conducting close readings of Indigenous, diasporic Asian, and Filipino literary art, I think through how settler Filipinos can ethically support Indigenous communities and movements. My analysis centres three ideas: that, to be better relations, Filipinos should 1) un-first our perspectives of the territories colonially called Canada, 2) practice what Gregory Cendana (2020) and DRUM — Desis Rising Up and Moving call embodied, transformative solidarity, and 3) revitalize the principle of kapwa, a Filipino belief of shared relationality between and across all of creation.

I examine these ideas in four chapters. In chapter 1, I discuss colonization in the Filipino context, to understand the colonially caused migration that has resulted in many Filipinos settling in Canada. In chapter 2, I study a map of Vancouver, Eden Robinson’s novel Monkey Beach (2000), and the poem beholden (2018) by Rita Wong and Fred Wah; here I borrow Jean M. O’Brien’s concept of “firsting” — those acts that portray “the colonial regime” as “the ‘first’ to bring ‘civilization’ and authentic history to” Turtle Island (xv) — and Melissa K. Nelson’s concept of “eco-eroticism” — intimate human-land, human-water, and human-nonhuman connections — to argue that these texts un-first common conceptualizations of Canada and uplift eco-erotic relations with/in Indigenous territories. In chapter 3, I discuss the potentials and limitations of settler Filipino solidarity work with Indigenous nations, sharing my experiences in organizing as well as working with scenes of solidarity within Catherine Hernandez’s novel Scarborough (2017) and Jill Carter’s play Encounters at the “Edge of the Woods” (2019). In chapter 4, I analyse José Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891) to examine how colonialism has disconnected Filipinos from the principle of kapwa, and to discuss the need to revitalize kapwa in the process of being better relations. The conclusion recognizes the need to extend these conversations to consider how Filipinos can be better relations to Black communities as well as to Indigenous communities in the Philippines.